(keep your eyes on the man in the middle.)
I went to college for one semester before I dropped out.
Felt bad for myself. Depressed. Frustrated.
Hated my job at a steakhouse.
Nothing was going right.
One weekend I decided to see if there was a magic shop nearby just to entertain myself, and it turns out there was one about 45 minutes away.
I call to make sure they’re open.
Someone answers the phone, and I could have sworn that it was Piglet from Winnie the Pooh.
“Yes, we’re open, I’ll see you shortly,” they said.
So I headed up.
And that’s when I met the guy in the middle of the photograph; Ricky Boone.
I was not prepared.
First thing I noticed was that he was pretty twisted up.
He was born with a rare bone disease that completely wrecked his skeleton. Doctors said he wouldn’t live past 4.
In fact, he died several times in childhood & was revived each time.
His bones were so messed up that he couldn’t turn his right hand all the way over. Instead, he’d have to hoist himself up to show his palm to you.
He was also cross eyed.
And did I mention he was hilarious?
Right away I forgot about the wheelchair and we were shooting the breeze talking about our shared love: magic.
Then he shows me some routines he had created.
Fried my brain.
This dude had the deck stacked against him, and yet he was still making it work for him.
And he was happy about it.
He took every day as a gift. He knew he was living on borrowed time, so he didn’t focus on the small frustrations of life.
He focused on what he did have, what he could do, and how he could help you.
He was relentless with his outlook. He could have down days, and even those would qualify as “nuclear-powered optimism” in my book.
Meeting him was a turning point in my life.
If this guy could work with what he had and build a happy life, then I had ZERO excuses that would hold any water.
That’s how my friendship of 21 years started with Ricky.
And last week it came to a close.
He finally passed away on June 18th at age 63.
I’ll be forever thankful that I could call him a dear friend, and that I had the gift of knowing him.
If you’d like to know more about him, or support his legacy then check out The Vanishing Wheelchair which is the non-profit that he started.
His goal was to use magic to dissolve the barriers between people with disabilities & those without. He understood that magic could “make the wheelchair vanish” like happened with me.
At first you see what’s holding him back, but then you see what connects you both: fun, warmth, kindness, and the mystery of being alive.
So, to wrap it up. If you’ve ever wondered why I tend to be in good spirits most of the time, you can thank Ricky for showing me that it’s possible.
Thanks for reading this far and learning about my friend.
PS: The photo at the top is Ricky in the middle with several other legends in the world of magic laughing along with him. If you were a magician, you’d be appropriately impressed.